What Should the Church do About Transgender? A response to a response..

I wrote this article on Transgender for Christian Today.  In reply CT then published this article WWJD – A Trans Christian responds   .   I was horrified and to be honest quite hurt about it – and I don’t often get hurt about personal articles.    The ‘on the one hand some Christians say this, on the other some say the opposite’ – approach is very damaging because it sounds as though the issue is not clear.  Its sowing the confusion of the world within the church.  And  it gets worse – because on the one hand are these nice Christians who understand and accept people as they are, on the other are the hate-filled religious bigots who are responsible for the murder of transgender people.  The fact that the second article directly accused me of that kind of damage was for me really depressing.   So I wrote a response, which was one of the hardest things I have ever had to write –  and to their credit Christian Today have published it.   

This is the original version of that article – which, for reasons of space had to be cut.

What Should the Church Do About Transgender?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a widely read article asking, ‘What would Jesus do about transgender?’ Of course in the highly politicised atmosphere of today’s culture, such an article was always going to be controversial and generate reactions. One such was from Jamie Fletcher an LGBTQ+ activist, who wrote ‘A trans Christian responds’.

Caitlyn Jenner
ReutersCaitlyn Jenner announced her transition from male to female in 2015.

 

SoSoSSSo

 

 

 

 

Sometimes the WWJD tag is used as an accusation – ‘you are being unloving and judgemental and Jesus would never be like that’, which falls into the trap of being judgemental and thus, by the standards of the speaker, unChristlike. But moving on from such judgementalism perhaps its better to ask what Jesus Christ, as the head of the Church wants us to do?

Firstly there are areas of agreement.

Like Jamie I too believe that all human beings should be treated with respect and dignity as children of God. I also believe that we need to be careful about the words that we use because the tongue is powerful and can do a great deal of damage. And of course we need to listen to people of different views and different experiences. I also agree that there are far too many articles about trans people and toilets, which run the danger of trivialising a serious issue. Like Jamie I affirm that Jesus loves trans people. But then Jamie knows this because all of it was stated in the original article.

So what about the areas of disagreement? Jamie stated that my article, which called for and agreed with all the above, was ‘extremely damaging’. I too am very concerned about damage being caused to people, especially children – that is why I wrote my article.  For example in The Sunday Times on the 3rd of December it was reported that primary schools and nurseries are being provided with books which promote transgender. One such is a picture book is called Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?, in which the book’s central character, called Tiny, queries their gender identity. As Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: “I do not question the intentions of the people using and promoting this material, but it is misguided. They are inflicting adult neuroses about gender onto children who are not interested in gender. Adults need to stop thinking children see the world the way they do. They do not. They may play at being a goblin one day, a dragon the next. They do not see the world in the way adults do and inflicting adult neuroses about gender onto children is damaging and cruel.

Don’t demonise

The article title was deliberate. ‘Transgender’ was used as a noun precisely because it was not written to attack people but an ideology. There is a whole ideology known as Queer theory that denies gender and which I believe does a great deal of harm. I would argue that this ideology is what dehumanises people. I would also say that when you label people who disagree with your ideology as ‘transphobic’ you dehumanise and demonise them. Its not a helpful way for a follower of Christ to behave. All people have to be respected. Not all ideologies.

It is also not helpful to associate those who disagree with an ideology with the murder of 325 transgender people. It is a form of emotional and psychological bullying to imply that if you dare to disagree with me, then you are implicated in these murders.   I am certain that not one of them was carried out by Christians who hold to the views described in my article. As followers of Christ we do not kill those we disagree with.

As for listening to voices, that is precisely what I am doing.   The fact that I come to a different conclusion than Jamie is not a reason for me to be demonised and accused of complicity in murder. I hear many voices. I hear the depressed teenager who has been told by a teacher that the reason for their depression might be that they are trapped in the wrong body. I hear the voice of the doctor who tells me that they have given up doing sex change operations because the outcome is 80 per cent negative. I hear the voice of the trans person who says that they must change because they really are trapped in the wrong body. I hear the voice of the trans person who now realises it was wrong and wants to change back but just for having said so is abused and vilified by some within the ‘trans community’. These are all real conversations with real people. There are many voices to be heard, and all of us need to listen. Yelling ‘transphobe’ at anyone who dares to disagree is not listening.

Trans Ideology

Jamie says we shouldn’t theorise but then she goes on precisely to do that, with her explanation of the language of her ideology. As a Christian I challenge every ideology that is not Christ’s. Queer theory or trans ideology is no different. We are not ‘assigned’ gender at birth. We are born male or female (with rare exceptions because of medical conditions). Human beings are divided into male and female. There are those who teach that gender is fluid and that there are many genders, but this is neither scientific nor biblical. Jamie thinks that I am ‘confused’ because I link biological sex and gender. It’s an interesting theory that the two are not connected, but I think it is an unwise and harmful theory, with no scientific warrant. As is the idea that very young children have the ability to decide they are a member of the opposite sex.

Which is not to deny that there is a psychological condition known as Gender Identity Disorder. I do not dispute that those who suffer from GID should receive treatment and help. Not least because as Jamie points out 89 per cent of trans young people self-harm and 45 per cent have attempted suicide. The problem is that she assumes that this is because of being bullied or not accepted as trans. Doubtless this does happen, but what if part of the problem is being trans in the first place? Or there are deeper issues which are only covered over by trying to explain them away as trans? Would we not then be encouraging children into a harmful and damaging way of life?

I agree that we should not demonise people but to claim that children are not given hormones and accuse any one who says that they are of ‘cheap demonisation’ is itself not helpful. The NHS website for Transgender states clearly that one of the treatments available for GID is hormone therapy. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gender-dysphoria/treatment/ Are they demonising trans people?

Listening to God

As Christians I take it as a given that we will listen to our fellow human beings, made in the image of God. I also assume that we will all listen to the Spirit speaking in and through the Scriptures. There is no doubt that the Bible does clearly say that God made humanity male and female, and that Christ re-emphasised that in the New Testament. But Jamie suggests that the apostle Paul changed everything in Galatians 3:28 when he states ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (NIV). The trouble with this quotation is that it is out of context – and a text quoted out of context is just a pretext for whatever the quoter wants to make it say. In this case it is absurd to state that Paul is declaring male and female no longer exist – absurd because the rest of this letter and all his letters assume and teach that they do!

What Paul is saying is that ‘in Christ’ there is no more male and female’ – in other words our gender does not matter when it comes to salvation.

Jamie says, ‘The important thing is to read this passage from the point of view of the one who has been excluded, not from the point of view of the one in the position of power and privilege.’ She writes from the perspective of someone who has power and privilege in the arts world and among our media and cultural elites. I write as an outsider, as someone who is excluded from ‘polite society’ just because I do not share the worldview of those currently in power. But so what? The important thing is not to read the passage from the perspective of the one who has been excluded, but to read it from the perspective of God. Is the Lord able to clearly convey his teaching or not? Or does it all depend on our perspective?

To misuse and abuse the Word of God in the way Jamie does, seeking to adapt it to her own ideological agenda, is morally wrong and intellectually dishonest. To declare that Jesus was someone who challenged ‘hetereonormativity’ without any evidence whatsoever is just to invent a Jesus who suits ones own agenda and ideology and to make a nonsense of the Bible.

What should the Church do?

Jesus did champion the marginalised and he did love the outcast – the tax collector as well as the prostitute. I suspect the equivalent of the tax collector today would be a Britain First candidate? I wonder how many Christian groups are rushing to love them?!   But he never said to people, ‘Come as you are and stay as you are.’ His promise was always that all were welcome – but that they would be radically changed. All need to be reborn. Jesus does not affirm us in our lifestyles. He redeems us from them.

Jamie makes the comment “What Would Jesus Do about Transgender people? My Bible suggests he would love them.” This was a somewhat snide dig – the implication being that of course my article was unloving and transphobic. We are back to the question of how does Jesus love and how should the church love. Jamie’s version of the love of Jesus is undefined but seems to be along the lines that he just lets us be whatever we want to be. I think there is much more to the love of Christ than that, as I pointed out in the original article.

We need to speak the truth in love. We need to engage in respectful dialogue. I doubt that there is anyone who would read my article who would see it as an invitation to attack trans people. But I know (having experienced it already) that being called a transphobe in today’s society is the equivalent of being called a Nazi.

It’s not just the hate mail; it’s also the attempts to get newspapers and broadcasters to exclude you (‘you can’t have him, he’s a transphobe) and the threats on future employment as well as to anyone connected with you. I don’t think my article damaged or harmed anyone. On the other hand Jamie’s is designed specifically to do that. To shut down the debate by shutting down the messenger – labelling and demonising anyone who disagrees and dares to speak out.

But we need to challenge harmful ideologies which undermine the Word of God and by so doing attack the person of Christ and harm his creation. We need to listen, learn and love. As the church of Jesus Christ we must be fearless in proclaiming the love of Christ in a confused and lost world. We must not compromise his love by adapting it to suit ourselves or the current zeitgeist. Christ is too precious for that…and our culture is in such a desperate state that it needs the Christ of the Bible, not our own personal Jesus.

David Robertson is Associate Director of Solas CPC in Dundee and minister at St Peter’s Free Church. Follow him on Twitter @TheWeeFlea. 


11 thoughts on “What Should the Church do About Transgender? A response to a response..

  1. Well said David. This bullying by those who wish to stifle debate and free speech must be challenged. Thank you and may God be glorified.

  2. The work you have put in to this article comes across clearly. A thoughtfully navigated path through the minefields of some of todays problems. Also a challenge to all sides.

  3. David,

    your reply was respectful, courteous, truthful and loving.

    I don’t agree with the title of this video I attach. Yet it is a straightforward, black and white 5 minute presentation by the Jewish Ben Shapiro exposing the ludicrous claims of the transgender community, in regards to blaming others for transgender suicide.

    Yes Jesus said come to the waters and drink from him, he also healed many but he also told the very same people “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you”

  4. More power to you, David. It cannot be easy coming up against those who wish to make gods in their own image.

    I don’t use the term lightly but Steve Chalke really is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  5. In 1989, Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen published “After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays”. It set out a strategy for making homosexuality become part of ‘normal’ society. One of the methods the authors suggested was to establish in the public mind the idea that homosexuals are the victims of hatred and bullying. Stories of homosexuals being the victims of hatred and bullying should be strongly emphasised in the media. It was also important to make the problem appear to be a major problem by putting forward statistics which greatly exaggerated the number of homosexuals in society. Thus the figure of 10% was widely used by activists. An example of this use of statistics can be seen in the Second Draft of the East Dunbartonshire Health and Social Partnership Strategic Plan for 2015-2018. This document contains the assertion: “Population estimates suggest that between five and seven percent of people are lesbian, gay or bisexual which would equate to approximately 7,000 East Dunbartonshire residents, with over 26% of that group aged over 60.” The source of these figures is LGBT Youth Scotland. Of course, all official statistical sources show that the figure for LGBT people in Scotland is less than two per cent.
    Jamie Fletcher appears to be using the strategy outlined by Kirk and Madsen: gain acceptance for your ideology by making out that people like you are constantly the victims of violence. Jamie produces statistics. What is the basis of these statistics? Are they any more reliable than the often-repeated claim that homosexuals make up ten per cent of the population?

  6. David has given a clear response from the Christian point of view.

    The following are a few paragraphs lifted from a fairly long and detailed academic review of the treatment of gender dysphoria, particularly the use of hormone blockers in children. From a scientific point of view the whole subject is a complete mishmash. The authors’ conclusions are very telling.

    Also a large academic study in Sweden (2011), probably the most LGBT affirming country in the world, concluded that transgenders do have a higher incidence of anxiety, depression, self-harm, attempted and actual suicide. But the authors concluded that this was due to underlying mental health issues which had not been addressed by the transgender treatment. Of course bullying may be a factor in some cases, but to simply present that as the sole cause is to do a disservice to trans people who need psychological help.

    “Growing Pains Problems with Puberty Suppression in Treating Gender Dysphoria
    Paul W. Hruz, Lawrence S. Mayer, and Paul R. McHugh The New Atlantis, 2017

    The use of puberty suppression and cross-sex hormones for minors is a radical step that presumes a great deal of knowledge and competence on the part of the children assenting to these procedures, on the part of the parents or guardians being asked to give legal consent to them, and on the part of the scientists and physicians who are developing and administering them. We frequently hear from neuroscientists that the adolescent brain is too immature to make reliably rational decisions,122 but we are supposed to expect emotionally troubled adolescents to make decisions about their gender identities and about serious medical treatments at the age of 12 or younger. And we are supposed to expect parents and physicians to evaluate the risks and benefits of puberty suppression, despite the state of ignorance in the scientific community about the nature of gender identity. The claim that puberty-blocking treatments are fully reversible makes them appear less drastic, but this claim is not supported by scientific evidence. It remains unknown whether or not ordinary sex-typical puberty will resume following the suppression of puberty in patients with gender dysphoria. It is also unclear whether children would be able to develop normal reproductive functions if they were to withdraw from puberty suppression.

    In light of the many uncertainties and unknowns, it would be appropriate to describe the use of puberty-blocking treatments for gender dysphoria as experimental. And yet it is not being treated as such by the medical community. Over the course of decades, experimental medicine has developed many norms, standards, and protocols, including human subjects protections, the use of institutional review boards, and carefully controlled clinical trials, as well as long-term follow-up studies. These longstanding practices are meant to make experimental medicine more rigorous and to serve the interests of patients, physicians, and the community. But when it comes to the use of puberty-blocking treatments for gender dysphoria, these standards and protocols seem to be almost entirely absent—a fact that ill serves patients, physicians, the community, and the search for truth.

    Physicians should be cautious about embracing experimental therapies in general, but especially those intended for children, and should particularly avoid any experimental therapy that has virtually no scientific evidence of effectiveness or safety. Regardless of the good intentions of the physicians and parents, to expose young people to such treatments is to endanger them.
    While there is much that is not known with certainty about gender dysphoria, there is clear evidence that patients who identify as the opposite sex often suffer a great deal. They have higher rates of anxiety, depression, and even suicide than the general population. Something must be done to help these patients, but as scientists struggle to better understand what gender dysphoria is and what causes it, it would not seem prudent to embrace hormonal treatments and sex reassignment as the foremost therapeutic tools for treating this condition.”

  7. Thanks David for this excellent article which ,for me, should be the template used for our response to those that would portray us, Christians, as transphobic etc.

  8. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’

    This does not remove the fact that we are, Jew, Gentile, male, female, slave or free, as our circumstances may very much be just the same. This is a misuse of scripture by Jamie.

    This scripture reveals the source of our identity. No longer is it due to those outward labels that are the cause of friction and turmoil, rather our identity is found ‘in Christ.’
    Applying the principle as Paul states removes the transgender ideology argument, just as it removes the racial supremacy argument, and the nationality argument, and the religious identity argument, and the capitalist/socialist, rich or poor argument. In Christ all these labels are removed.

    But the key is in the preposition. It only applies to those who are ‘in Christ.’ To those who insist on maintaining a label, the claim to be ‘in Christ’ is made null and void. I.e. The one who insists being identified by their label, be it, Jew, gentile, rich/poor, slave, free, male or female, or male who identifies as female and vice versa.

    If Jamie really applied what Paul was saying, he/she would not be looking at their identity based upon male or female, rather that they are ‘in Christ.’ It would not and should not matter. The fact it matters, indicates he/she has not grasped what it is to be ‘in Christ.’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s